autumn: a list

(For Tea and Poetry this afternoon, I read a couple of poems but then had the school-aged kids make lists of words describing autumn. Here’s Jameson’s.)

bright
cool
crisp
colorful
big sky
brown
crunch
clouds
contrast
orange
leaves
football
pigskin
ears so cold
early nights
hunting
candy
tricks
treats
walks
school stress
chili
pie
apple
pumpkin
warm clothes
fires
cornbread
spice cake
snow
breakin’ my back shoveling
TV
coffee
thanks

take my moments

September. Such a month of beauty and change.

Dark begins to hem us in, bit by bit. I sit inside at 6am, because I need a light to read. We are tucking girls into bed by 8pm because there’s no sunshine outside, anyway. And I love the wild, free hours of summer, but I love this drawing in, too. More often than not, I am in the rocking chair in the little girls’ bedroom every nap time and bedtime, reading to a sometimes captive and sometimes not audience. A month ago the routine looked more like a tick check and washing feet and hurrying them onto their pillows before I turned into a pumpkin, but now there is time, space, slow. I am torn between missing the late night sounds of dribbling and swinging, and loving the lamplight on sweet faces around me. That is life, is it not? Torn between missing and fullness?

We are finding familiar rhythms, tweaked for this year’s needs. Mornings hum with activity and the day’s preparations. Heads bend over books, eager to finish and get outside. Afternoons give way to quiet and rest before another round of humming begins. It is full. There are people of every size everywhere, coming and going. There is the outline of Mama’s routine, but with older children employing self-discipline and goal-setting to see where they can be more efficient. Big girls to teach one-on-one, little girls to entertain and train. A running list of errands, phone calls, people who come to mind, thoughts from Scripture and national situations that take up space in my heart. Meals to plan (and then actually make). Temperatures dropping and suddenly I remember these kids can’t wear shorts all year — time to figure that out, too, I guess. Full.

Life, hurtling forward, and yet, given to us a moment at a time. We are not victims but stewards. This is our time to serve the Lord, our generation in which to shine. And a moment at a time, the serving and shining may not seem especially spectacular, but that is not my concern: faithful obedience to the Word of God, yielding to the call of God on my life is my role. I don’t need to try and shape my life into something I think is worthy of the word “legacy.” He shapes me. He molds me. And it is His legacy I want to leave, anyway. This is both a relief and a challenge: my moments count. My attitude counts. The way I think needs to be transformed by the Word of God, and my heart needs to come under His Lordship.

Today is what I have to give. This moment. And then the next. One foot in front of the other, with eyes fixed on Jesus.

school plans

[Because it always is so much fun for me to hear your homeschool plans, I thought I’d share mine and the tools I have ready for this year. Feel free to comment or link or share a photo of your plan!]

The cupboard got overhauled last week, leaving an empty shelf for the 2020-21 school year’s books. And this week, all but one of those have arrived, I’ve thought through routines and chores and who practices piano when (gah!!!), and the clipboards are all ready to receive new checklists for each child except Enid — who will probably want a checklist, too, now that I think about it.

I was having a hard time getting into school mode this year, but God helped me along by sending a wave of cool, rainy days. In case I was tempted to continue summer break forever, and spend the rest of our lives just swimming and eating watermelon, I am now convinced that wouldn’t work out well, anyway. So, school it is.

Jameson is going into 9th, William into 7th, Beatrice into 4th, and Fiona into 2nd. Cecily will be a very eager pre-schooler and, I suspect, will begin her K year well ahead of the game.

We’ll start our learning each day with Circle Time, a lovely catch-all name for our time worshiping, praying, memorizing scripture, and then whatever else I throw into the basket that year. The boys will lead us in some songs, and I hope to add Beatrice to that mix as well. Sometimes I take over while we learn a hymn, but most often it’s our favorite choruses. After working on a memory verse (they’re each slowly filling their own spiral bound 3x5s) and having a prayer time, we’ll rotate these three books:

History will mostly happen right in Circle Time this year, with lots of read alouds as we follow world events from the beginning of the Cold War through the Persian Gulf War. I’m using the last 20 or so lessons of Mystery of History Vol IV as my spine, helping me to keep things in order, but we’ll go very slowly, digging deeper and following bunny trails as they appear. (For instance, we haven’t even started, and already the kids have been asking questions about the Bolsheviks and the Romanovs, and suddenly I realized “The Start of the Cold War” is going to look a lot like weeks of Russian history!)

For math, the boys will continue using Teaching Textbooks, while the girls do Bob Jones. I’m considering letting Beatrice make the switch to TT and will make that call at some point. Does the visual impact of a book help her learn math concepts? I’m not sure. Every kid is a bit different, but these two programs have worked for us so far!

I’m very excited about Language Arts this year, and am hoping we can spend a chunk of our time honing writing skills. Jameson will be doing Learning Language Arts Through Literature: World Lit, and William will be using their Green Book. (Jameson will read Cry, the Beloved Country and that may or may not be the sole reason I chose this particular course for him! I so love that book!) Beatrice, along with Bob Jones English, will be using a Creative Writing notebook by The Good and the Beautiful. I bought one for Fiona, too, and it’s the one thing she talks about constantly, so I guess she’s excited, too! I’ll also have her do Bob Jones Spelling, as we beef up on basics.

Handwriting will continue for William, Beatrice, and Fiona. The older two are using cursive books from the Handwriting for Learning series, and Fiona will use Getty-Dubay Italics. Jameson will be scrutinized by his mother, but at this point has proven that he can write a neat sentence. The older three will also do typing — and at the moment, my plan is typing.com unless I hear that there’s another amazing program we should try!

For science, Jameson will branch off on his own to do Biology, including a 3/month class with labs and such. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to study human anatomy, which never fails to be fascinating!

All the extras will look like piano lessons for all four, guitar for William, computer programming for the boys, cooking for Beatrice, and plenty of “yes!” when Fiona asks to paint. There will be plenty of reading done by all of them, but sitting together to hear me read will be a daily “big rock” that I don’t plan on ever forsaking. And Tea & Poetry will continue one afternoon each week — another chance for us to sit around a table together and chat and smile and build memories. This post is already long enough, but the goals of our investment must be clear in order for the tools to serve and not derail us, and loving one another and fostering good thought and character and conversation is right up there with whatever details Jameson may retain about amoebas.

So yes. I’m excited. Yes, I’ve spent hours praying and thinking and observing and researching and wondering what would be best for this year. I sharpened pencils and tossed the duds from our pen jar and made sure there are spiral notebooks ready for copious notes. I have kids who are as excited as I am, and I know it will be so much fun. It will also be far more chaotic than I ever remember, Enid will be more challenging than I am prepared for, and cleaning up from breakfast will, inevitably, take f o r e v e r some mornings and I will be ready to blow my lid before 9am. Some of these books will be the perfect fit, and some of these will get traded in for a new plan. I know these things because I’ve been around this block a few times. But what I most know is that being home with all of these kids is one of the greatest privileges of my life, being together all day is an amazing gift that we all recognize and enjoy, and being able to receive fresh outpouring from the Holy Spirit each day and serving out of that abundance is the key to it all.

Pencils ready, let’s go!

redeeming the time

Suddenly we’re all homeschooling moms. Who even saw that coming? Certainly not me.

There are all sorts of memes out there that, funny as they might be, paint a picture of the previously homeschooling mom as cool and calm and unchanged in this crisis. I’m not sure that’s quite accurate. I am about as much of a homebody as anyone, and our homeschool life involves very limited extra-curricular activities — and yet, even so, the whole world being canceled has changed our weeks so very much. My daily routine suffered quite the lurch these last two weeks, and once the initial busyness of trying to make sure we were ready for whatever-this-is was past, I knew it was time for me to, once again, “Write the vision, make it plain.”

Before I just slip into auto-pilot, finishing out the school year and checking off that box, STOP.

This is a unique moment. It’s not necessarily fun. It’s not all easy. There’s the sound of Fear and Anxiety clawing at the door and that needs to be dealt with, and for some the sound of that might be all-consuming. (Reach out. Find a friend to pray with you and stand with you.) But whatever the circumstances that have brought us here, this is an opportunity worth grabbing.

So. Time to pause, and in prayer ask, “What is the vision for this spring? When June comes, what do I want to look back and have accomplished?”

There are layers to that question, but for me, as relates specifically to homeschooling, my answer is: TOGETHERNESS. I want us to love one another deeper, better, and stronger. I want to have a bond with each of my children that is tighter than it was two weeks ago. Do you know, we could all be “stuck” in this house together for weeks on end, and spend the whole time withdrawn and checked out? We could. And that would be an absolute waste. A tragedy.

Yesterday morning I listened to this podcast, and lo and behold, guess what it was about? (Just replace “winter” with “quarantine” when asking her question about goals.)

What is it that the Holy Spirit drops into your heart when you ask that question? Write down the answer, and then pray for ways to implement. Don’t be afraid to change and rearrange and reprioritize. This is the perfect season to do just that.

As overwhelmed as you may feel by the situations around us, and perhaps by the way they are touching the heart of your home as well, God has anointed you, Mama, for this hour, to nurture and train your little tribe. What does faithfulness look like? Don’t be afraid to ask, because He will be faithful to supply everything you need for this good work.

another first day.

On Tuesday, we had our last day of summer, celebrated with a family outing to Lake Placid and the top of Whiteface. Ryan and I each strapped a little girl to our back, and we all climbed that last 425 feet to the top. (Fiona the Fearless was like a mountain gazelle once we reached the top and there was the summit to explore.) It was a perfect day of sunshine and clear views, new shoes and ice cream cones.

Yesterday we dove into a brand new school year. I just love being with my kids. Managing our routines and connecting with individual needs while moving us along as a whole each day is challenging — and then of course remembering that I’m still the cook when dinner time rolls around! But while some days are more smooth than others, I wouldn’t trade this for the world. The years are short, and I’m so glad they’re here with me. The investment is enormous, but it’s also weighty: days of math pages and consonant sounds and gerunds and butterflies bursting and charting of Nazi invasions — they are days of talking and living Jesus out loud. Chores, character training, piano practice, sibling interactions all opportunities to see us grow into our destiny, responding by faith to the grace of the gospel and purposing each day to yield ourselves to the good works prepared for us to walk in.

As we capped off the first day, I sat in a circle of women — sisters — and pondered the incredible courage and investment of Moses’ mother. And investment that set him apart and positioned him to respond to the call of God on his life. She knew the years were short, too, and she made them count.

Lord, I want to make this year count. Be glorified.


found in William’s nature journal — my child who doesn’t love art and thinks himself unable, but has learned to obediently engage and do his best. I couldn’t believe how lovely it was.

school days!

While summer days are enjoyed — gardens watered, kiddie pools filled, camps attended, grill fired up repeatedly — my mind is already far ahead, somewhere in September, dreaming about new books and new pencils and new routines. Snippets of time have been stolen to toss old markers and used workbooks, choose and collect books for a new year, write out lesson plans and ponder new chore schedules, and generally prepare myself for a new exciting year of learning.

And I am excited! Want to see which books we’ll use? (Is there anything homeschool moms enjoy more than a show and tell? Please feel free to share yours in return!)

Math will be Teaching Textbooks for the boys and Bob Jones for the girls. Beatrice is old enough to begin TT, but I think the workbook format for one more year will better suit her (easily distracted) personality.

Handwriting will be Getty-Dubay for Fiona (as I’ve used with the others), and something new for the older three. I want them all to learn cursive well, so despite the protests from the boys who see handwriting practice as a bit of a pain, I am sticking to my guns. (Also, their handwriting clearly needs practice!)

Some of our Language Arts will be covered with these books: Explode the Code for Fiona, who is still chipping away at basic reading skills; Bob Jones English for Beatrice, who would do creative writing all day and will love nouns and verbs as much as I did; and a surprise find (cleaning out the school cupboard can be awesome!) that will come in useful with the boys as we diagram sentences to review things they’ve already learned, as well as some poetry study and writing skills that we’ll incorporate into other subjects.

For science, my younger three students will continue nature study — observation, research, and recording their finds — aided by new books that I just love! Jameson will strike out on his own, doing Apologia’s Physical Science.

But of course, in my world, all of those things take a back seat to the real exciting stuff: history!! This is where we end up doing most of our literature, our writing assignments, our geography and social studies, our philosophy and ethics and poetry and art. This year we will tackle World War Two, and I am beyond excited. I’m also overwhelmed (so much to learn, so many direction we could go), sober (just an afternoon of preparation had me feeling so unbelievably sad), and expectant (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — these are important things to study and be warned by.) I have too many novels and biographies and resources and movies and songs collected, but I am starting to create a plan. To break things up, every six weeks or so we will pause and zero in on one of the major countries of interest (Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and Japan), and study its geography, learn a few words in its language, read a folk story, and make some food!

Of course I always dream so much and then there’s the reality of dentist appointments and toddlers crying and dinner needing to be made and that pesky thing about 24 hours and only 24 hours in each day.

But we’ll aim for the stars and hit the moon, right?

For now, I’m enjoying afternoons outside, reading my (you guessed it, WWII) novel.